- Paula Cristina Azevedo
How Much Do You Know about Meditation? Take a quiz and find out!
So, be honest with yourself...how much do you really know about meditation? Take this simple quiz and find out! Don't scroll the page to take a peak at the answer :)
1. True or False. Meditating is easy! You just sit, close your eyes, and chant Om.
2. True or False. You only have to relax to meditate.
3. True or False. You should go into a trance-like state when you meditate.
4. True or False. Meditation sessions will always bring up joyful emotions.
5. True or False. Have a meditation practice is selfish because you’re taking time to only focus on yourself.
6. True or False. Meditation can help you escape reality.
7. True or False. You have to be a Buddhist monk to meditate.
8. True or False. You have to know Buddhist sacred text in order to meditate.
9.True or False. Thinking while meditating is bad.
10. True or False. Meditation will solve all your problems in a short time.
If you answered False to all of these statements then you have a good understanding of what meditation is and is not. No worries if you got a few wrong, because in this blog post I’m going to dispel in detail some myths about meditation, and next week I’ll explain some of the truths about meditation. Let’s get started!
Seven Myths about Meditation
The use of the word meditation has been used frequently in popular American culture in the past few years. We see the word on front pages of mainstream magazines displayed in grocery checkout lines, we hear CEOs of major companies opening talking about their own meditation practice and see news stories about the health benefits. Yet, many people may not actually know what meditation is, met someone who has their own meditation practice, never experienced meditation, and/or has misconceptions on what meditation is. Meditation is all about concentration and awareness. The goal of this blog post is to discuss what meditation is and what is it not. First, I want to dispel some common misconceptions about meditation, and next week I’ll delve into what meditation is.
Myth 1: Meditating is easy
If meditating was so easy everyone would be meditating. It actually takes some hard work and training to begin your own meditation practice. And meditating is truly a practice. There are days that sitting in the proper position in silence and quieting the mind will be easy and there are days that just sitting will be difficult let alone quieting the mind. Each day a new set of challenges arise when meditating. For instance, one day before starting meditating I took a sip of hot tea not realizing that it was still very hot. Of course throughout the meditation all I could feel was my burnt tongue and the hot and tingling sensations. That meditation was completely different from the one the day before that, which had its own set of challenges. My point is that when you watch someone meditate they seem so peaceful and joyful, but actually you don’t know what’s going on in their mind, body, and heart during that meditation. Everyone looks at ease when their eyes are closed and sitting upright in the meditation posture, but in reality there may be very little ease or relaxation in that meditation.
Myth 2: Meditation is all about relaxing
Many people assume that sitting still and in silence is relaxing, and I’m sure it can be for the working parent of two children. However, meditation, or at least the form of meditation I practice, is much more than just about relaxation. Yes, relaxing is a part of all forms of meditation, but in vipassana meditation the goal is to go beyond jhana or deep relaxation and to reach awareness and insight of our everyday life.
Myth 3: You go into a trance when you meditate
In vipassana meditation you never go into a trance or a hypnotic state. No guided meditation should never take you somewhere else, wipe your mind, or make you emotionless. If you are using a guided meditation that does this just be very careful. These type of meditation practices the practitioner is susceptible to suggested ideas by another person (Yikes!). There are meditation practices that want to alter your state of mind or emotion, but that is not vipassana meditation. In fact vipassana is the opposite of a trance state. In vipassana you delve deeper into your emotions and the changes that occur and becoming aware of your own state. If you at any point become unconscious then you’re not meditating...it’s that simple.
Myth 4: It’s dangerous to meditate
Living is a dangerous endeavor. It’s dangerous to walk outside, because you may get hit by a car or trip on an uneven pavement and hit your head. Everything in life can be dangerous and can kill us. Meditation is dangerous in the sense that it may uncover up some old emotions or traumas that we have long forgotten. Remember meditation, though relaxing, is not simply about reaching a state of relaxation. It’s about becoming aware, which means we may become more aware of old emotions, painful events, and traumas in our lives. The danger isn’t that we become aware of the old pain, but rather that we live unaware with such pain deep within us. However, with that said don’t entertain old traumas during meditation especially if you are just beginning. This should only be done with a well-respected meditation teacher who is trained in working with people through trauma.
Myth 5: Meditating is selfish
Ugh, I hate this one. No, meditating is not selfish and don’t let people get away with such ideas if they state this to you. Of course an outsider watching a person practice meditation sitting silently, with her eyes closed on a comfy cushion would thing that the meditator was being selfish because it looks like the mediator is doing absolutely nothing, but again this is because people misunderstand meditation. I love how Bhante Henepola Gunaratana explains the purpose of meditation, "The meditator’s intention is to purge her own mind of anger, prejudice, and ill will, and she is actively engaged in the process of getting rid of greed, tension, and insensitivity. Those are the very items that obstruct her compassion for others. Until they are gone, any good works that she does are likely to be an extension of her own ego, and of no real help in the long run….Cleansing yourself of selfishness is not a selfish activity" (Gunaratana, 20-21).
It’s like when you take a plane and the airline attendant states and demonstrates that when the oxygen mask comes down you always put your mask on first and then you help put the oxygen mask on a child or someone who needs additional assistant that’s sitting next to you. See if you are helping someone else put their mask on during pressure change in the cabin you’ll probably pass out before you even complete the task or have an opportunity to put on your mask. The same idea applies with meditation. You have to become aware of your own mind, emotions, and body before saving the world and in this case taking on the big task of educating children, teenagers, and young adults.
Myth 6: You’re running away from reality
This is further from the truth. If you think that when you meditate that you are escaping the daily grind of life boy are you in for a surprise. Again, meditation brings us closer to reality and awareness. We are gaining more insights about ourselves, others, and the reality that we face. Thich Nhat Hanh put it simply “This is it.” Meaning that there is nothing more real but this moment. Meditation brings us to that reality that “this is it” people.
Myth 7: Meditating will solve all my problems in one week
I wish! You will not have the solution to peace in the Middle East or the North Korea crisis after meditating for a week. Hell, you won’t even have a solution on how to motivate yourself to workout more often. So, don’t expect to become an enlightened soul after two meditation sessions. It really does take time to learn the practice, to create your own practice, and to learn from your practice. Often people quit because they don’t see or feel results immediately, but meditation is a discipline and it is one that take time and practice. Often times you won’t feel a major "Eureka!" moment , but rather subtle movements and shifts that you may miss out on if you don’t continue to practice meditation.
See! Meditation isn’t all that scary. You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk living in isolation to gain the benefits of meditation. This journey won’t always be easy or even relaxing at times, but it may bring greater awareness to the present moment, and who doesn’t need more of that.
I hope after reading this post you have some insight on what meditation is not. Next week we’ll continue this journey. I’m going to share with you some truths about meditation. Don’t miss my next post and subscribe to my email list, like me on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest.